“Hey (insert your name here) why don’t you do some ukulele playing with the (insert difficult class)?”

How many of you have heard that sort of thing before? I don’t know why you’re here, but you’ve found yourself on a page with an article that says it includes three keys for setting up a ukulele program in your school.

All too often a ukulele program can be suggested as something to do, yet if you go into it without some planning and preparation, it can be add more stress to your week, instead of helping!

That is not what we’re in the business of at the Fun Music Company! We aim to create materials and software that really help music teachers, and allows them to focus on the most important thing, which is the education of and the connection to their students.

 When it comes to ukulele, there is lots of advice around, and many wonderful teachers and experts who can help you.

However we believe that there are just three keys to getting started with ukulele in the classroom, and if you think about these things first, then you’ll be off to a great start!

Key #1 – Start with passion and excitement for the instrument and the music.

Instead of jumping straight into practical things, like how you hang up or store the ukuleles, we want to start “up stream” a little, and think about you, the teacher.

Yes, you, the teacher … makes an enormous difference. I would have to say that this is the NUMBER ONE thing that is going to make a difference whether or not you’re successful. It’s not the instruments you have, it’s not the classroom, it’s not the enthusiasm of the students. Its not the situation you’re teaching in or the resources you have available. It’s YOU.

By YOU … I’m not talking about your skills or experience. You can never have picked up a ukulele before, and you can have success. The skills and experience you have matters very little.

What does matter is your attitude, your beliefs and your mood every day.

How you are in the classroom, how you show up each day – whether you’re in a happy, controlled, balanced mood (or not!) – that is the thing that will determine your success.

If you walk into the classroom to teach ukulele, and your internal self talk is “I don’t want to do this … I don’t even like this instrument … This isn’t going to work”…

well guess what?

It won’t work. You’ll have a lousy time.

However, this is something that you are 100% in control of. The three things mentioned: your attitude, your beliefs and your mood every day are 100% within your control.

Yes, things will happen. Kids will misbehave, they will break strings, twiddle with tuning pegs and interrupt at the wrong times. It will happen! You may not have the best instruments, or the most budget. It’s life!

But the thing that matters is what you bring into the classroom – and the most important thing is your attitude, your beliefs and your mood.

If you’re enthusiastic about the ukulele, then your enthusiasm will be infectious! The kids will pick up on it and pretty soon they’ll carry you along with them when you have the occasional bad day. 

The thing is, you’ve got to control it from day one! Remember that you are in control of those things, and make sure that you think about your self-talk.

So here are a few ideas for improving your enthusiasm and passion for the ukulele.

Play ukulele! Lots! One of the best things you can do is simply pick up the ukulele and play! Watch videos and learn to play songs. Get yourself a program and play along, find books and resources, and play with the students. Play songs that they like and request! Get inspired! You don’t have to be perfect! Just play privately, in your own time. No-one has to hear you, but the more you play, the more you’ll enjoy.
Watch great ukulele players and share with the students. There are so many wonderful ukulele players and teachers on youtube. Look up Jake Shimabukuro on youtube – and you’ll find things like his amazing performance of “bohemian rhapsody”. It’s amazing to see what a ukulele can do! We don’t have to be virtuosos like that of course – because we have this wonderful thing called the internet where we can see and share videos of the world’s greatest musicians.

Think about how grateful you are to have this opportunity. Think about it – you’ve got an opportunity to play an instrument with such a wonderful culture of inclusivity and connection. There are ukulele clubs all around the world, and you have an opportunity to share this culture with another generation of students who may not have experienced it. Thinking just a little gratitude every morning for the opportunity can change your attitude and mood for the day.

Again, there is a reason we wrote this as #1 of our three keys – as it is that important. What attitudes, beliefs and mood you bring to the classroom is going to be the most important factor in your success.

Key #2 – Think about your classroom management in advance.

Yes, we need to talk about classroom management. 

You can’t go in on day one, have the kids in a circle on the floor, and unbox your brand new ukuleles and give them to them.. not without it being a bit challenging!

Have you ever heard the old “five P’s” phrase that one of my old university teachers used to say “Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance”?

But it’s not preparation you need in terms of lots of time thinking about songs and exercises. Yes, you need to think about that, but more importantly you need to think about your procedures for classroom management and anticipate the challenges that will come up for the students, and how you’ll handle them.

Storage and getting instruments off the rack.
Firstly, think about how the ukuleles are stored in your room, and make sure that you have a procedure in place for how and when students are allowed to pick one up, and how they must put them back.

Students need to respect instruments, and this is a key thing to make sure happens on day one of lessons.

Yes, you might not be able to get the perfect rack setup or built yet – so even if you start with them leaning against a wall or in their boxes, at least have your plan worked out before you step into the classroom on day one.



The tuning pegs.
Do you know the number one reason ukuleles go out of tune? It’s not the weather, and it’s not usually the strings. The reason is the children! Sometimes its genuinely naughty ones who do it to be annoying, but often it will be children who simply don’t know what the tuning pegs do. So on the first day, before a child touches a ukulele this is a really important thing to emphasize. Until they’re taught how… students should not touch the tuning pegs!





Ukulele management and colours.
Most school sets have multiple colours of ukulele, and sometimes multiple brands and different styles, purchased at different times. That’s ok – its not a perfect world, and isn’t going to be! We have to work with what we have, and what we can get.

However this can be a cause of problems in the classroom. “I want the red one!”…. “I don’t want a pink one!” It can and probably will happen on the first day. And there is every possibility that a child will be upset and create a poor linkage in their mind to ukulele lessons. And this is the very first day!! That is absolutely NOT what we want.

We have seen many teachers use an assignment system, where each ukulele is numbered, and they have a process on the first day (which can be random, or not) to assign each student their ukulele. The numbers are recorded on a register for each class, and the student knows exactly which ukulele is “theirs” for the ukulele classes. That way you can make sure that each child gets a colour that they’re happy with on day one, and they will know where to find it.

This also makes it easier to track down issues with particular ukuleles, and makes sure that you can be totally organised.

It may take you a few years to get your classroom management system for ukulele system sorted into something that works for you and your school. Don’t expect that you’ll be perfect on day one, but at least if you think about it and make it a focus then you’ll have a greater chance of success.

Key #3 – Get yourself the support and resources you need.

Once you have your own attitude sorted out and some ideas for how you’ll manage things in the classroom, you need to get yourself the best resources and programs to help you.

Here at the Fun Music Company we’ve spent the last three years developing our Ukulele Curriculum System, which is a complete program for teaching ukulele in the classroom.

We did this because we knew that the first two things on this list is more than enough for the teacher to handle. We don’t want teachers to be spending time trawling the internet, trying to find exercises, backing tracks and songs.

Teachers need to spend the time caring for themselves, resting, enjoying life, playing the ukulele and focusing on the wonderful opportunity of teaching the ukulele.

So that is why we do what we do – we’re here to support you and make your life easier with our programs. We have everything you need from the exercises and songs, through to support from our community of teachers.

So the first step is to download and quickly read our getting started guide – and if you do that we’ll send you a series of five free lesson ideas that will get you started right away.

Enjoy this wonderful journey of teaching the ukulele, and I look forward to welcoming you personally into our community of teachers using this program!